SafetyNet 435, February 14, 2018
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Fatality in country Victoria
Some of our readers will not have seen that just after posted last week's journal we received the tragic news that another Victorian worker lost his life on the evening of Tuesday, February 6th after the tip truck he was driving made contact with overhead powerlines on a dairy farm at Kergunyah, south of Albury Wodonga. This brings the number of Victorians killed at work this year to three.
Is there a dress code for school teachers that mentions footwear? Many of us wear open toed sandals in hot weather if our teaching duties don't include teaching PE, or any of the craft/science/etc or taking outdoor activities (apart from yard duty). Recently one teacher was reprimanded for wearing open toed sandals in front of many other staff members who were also wearing open toed shoes at the time and is understandably upset. She has approached me about this issue as her OHS rep on staff.
Of course there is nothing in the OHS legislation which goes to the specificity of footwear in the workplace, and as far I am aware there is no Department wide policy. It makes sense to have a formal, rather than assumed, dress policy for schools in general, both in what is deemed acceptable (eg perhaps no singlet tops, or short shorts) but also for safety (no thongs or thong like sandals, generally, and no open shoes for the areas you mention).
I do not believe there is a health and safety reason why sandals or open toed footwear to be banned altogether. If there is a school policy already in place, then everyone should be made aware of it and if it does provide for such a blanket ban, then as the HSR you should request a review of the policy and be involved in the process.
In any case, the manner in which the staff member was reprimanded seems to have been inappropriate - and I recommend taking the matter up formally with the principal or whoever has been designated the employer representative for OHS in the school. So in summary: formalize a sensible and reasonable footwear and dress code/policy, and request that all staff in the school be provided with a copy, etc. Remember too that once a policy, based on good OHS principles is agreed, then all the staff, under s25 of the Act, have a duty to comply.
Please send any OHS related queries in to Ask Renata - your query will be responded to as quickly as we can – usually within a couple of days.
Labour licensing laws pass in Victoria
Despite Opposition MLAs voting against the Bill, labour-hire licensing have have passed Victoria's Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament. The Victorian Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 passed the Legislative Assembly before being introduced to the Legislative Council last Thursday.
The Bill makes it unlawful to provide labour-hire services without a licence, or host labour-hire workers from an unlicensed provider. And in order to obtain or renew such a licence, bodies corporate or their officers must pass a "fit and proper person" test, which they will fail if, within the preceding five years, they have been found by a court to have contravened a workplace law, including the Victorian OHS Act and the Commonwealth SRC and Fair Work Acts.
Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Natalia Hutchins accused the Opposition of failing to protect "vulnerable" labour-hire workers from the widespread exploitation and unsafe practices identified in a 2016 inquiry, by voting against the Bill. The introduction of this Bill is a win for labour-hire workers who too often have been exploited, underpaid and had to work in shocking conditions.
But according to Shadow IR Minister Robert Clark told Parliament, unions could "misuse" the proposed scheme by threatening to oppose licence applications and pressuring labour-hire companies to deliver union membership or direct payments into slush funds. Unions have fought for the rights of these workers and lobbied for laws to protect them - accusing unions of wanting such laws, which simply ensure that employers have been found guilty of breaking employment or OHS laws, to blackmail employers is absurd.
Read more: Minister Hutchins Media release: Mobsters' Mate Votes For Exploitation of Most Vulnerable .
NSW: Asbestos illegally dumped next to daycare centre and homes
A daycare centre and dozens of households at Jordan Springs, near Penrith, have potentially been exposed to an alleged illegal dump of asbestos in Sydney's west. Residents were unaware of the hazard until receiving an alert in their letterboxes last Friday.
The letter from Lendlease stated contractors had identified small amounts of bonded Asbestos Containing Material within the dumped soils.
Read more: Nine.com.au
Canada: Failure of legislation to protect population
An important report, Survey of legislation concerning environmental exposure to asbestos in Quebec and elsewhere, released in French by Quebec's National Public Health Institute, compares environmental laws governing asbestos in Quebec, the other Canadian provinces and territories and at the Canadian national level and those in four US states (California, Maine, Montana and Vermont), as well as the European Union (EU).
The report shows that while laws in the EU, the US at the national level and the four US states studied all designate asbestos as a dangerous substance, in Canada only the federal government and three provinces treat asbestos as a dangerous substance, a pollutant, a contaminant or a toxic substance. In Quebec, asbestos is specifically excluded from Quebec's regulation on dangerous substances.
At a time when the Canadian government is developing new federal regulations to ban asbestos, this report is particularly important and relevant.
Read more here: Failure of Quebec and Canadian legislation to protect population from asbestos harm Source: RightOnCanada.ca
ASEA - new website is live
A reminder to check out the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency's new website. ASEA is always looking for feedback on the new site so if you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to click on the Provide feedback button on the homepage. Check the new website by clicking here.
Media union calls for changes at Sovereign Hill
Media reports last week of sexual harassment and assault at Ballarat's iconic Sovereign Hill are deeply concerning and indicate an unsafe workplace, says the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA), the union for workers at the tourist attraction.The union has represented several members over the past few years who have made allegations of sexual harassment and bullying. MEAA has also raised other workplace health and safety concerns with management, but in each case, the management response has fallen short of what should be expected.
MEAA Victorian regional director, Adam Portelli said, "In some of the cases we have dealt with, employees making genuine complaints to management have subsequently been subject to disciplinary processes by management. There seems to be an ad hoc approach to discipline – employees who complain appear to have been disciplined for minor infractions while serious complaints are left unresolved. The systemic issues we have raised have not been addressed."
Source: MEAA Media release
HSR's article on mental health
This little item from last week got lots of clicks, so if you haven't yet read a piece by long-term OHS Activist Glen Davis on the impact of work on Mental Health, do it now. Read more: G.Davis, Work and Mental Health, Online Opinion
International Union News
Canada: Court rules work injuries are a human rights issue
Canada's highest court has ruled that a human rights duty to accommodate people with disabilities is applicable in the case of workplace injuries. The legal case was brought by public service union CUPE and injured workers' groups in Ontario and Quebec. The union says the ruling means employers are now required to accommodate workers with functional limitations due to a work-related injury. "The legislation provides a broad range of options for adapting workstations," said CUPE-Québec president Denis Bolduc. "We are going to ensure that no one who is able to work is unjustly excluded from their workplace."
Read more: Canadian Supreme Court ruling. CUPE news release.Source: Risks 836
Global: Media workers call for end to impunity as 82 die
At total of 82 journalists and media staff were killed doing their jobs in 2017, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has said. 'Time to end impunity', the global media union's report, said the number of work-related killings of journalists fell to their lowest level in a decade, but added "the death toll in journalism remains unacceptably high." Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said "the best tribute we can pay to the victims is to unrelentingly mobilise and work tirelessly to lift the shadow of impunity which has been over journalism for far too long." The report highlights the "pressing challenges" to journalists' safety across the globe. IFJ said these range from opposition to the media as 'a crucial pillar in democracy' in certain parts of Africa, to the failure of holding accountable those who kill journalists in some European countries, to the 'reign of terror' by organised crime in Latin America, terror attacks in Asia Pacific and the Middle East and the Arab world, where the problem is compounded by frontline violence. IFJ is proposing a new international convention on the safety and independence of journalists and other media professionals, which it wants adopted by members of the United Nations. The convention aims "at providing a real means to enforcing existing laws in order to hold accountable those who attack journalists," IFJ says.
Read more: NUJ news release. IFJ news release and report, Time to end impunity: Journalists and media staff killed in 2017. [pdf] . Source: Risks 836
Global: New violence and harassment risks in digital technology
Workers in 'digitised' working environments are facing new psychosocial risks and problems with work-related violence and harassment, a study for the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found. The UN body's Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV) commissioned the research from University of Leicester business professor Phoebe Moore. She says the new study highlights the ways in which new technologies are being used for management purposes in the workplace, whether that is in factories, on streets or in the home. "This includes the 'gig economy', automation practices and algorithmic management, people analytics, computerisation, wearable tracking. Overall, it's about the use of big data and quantification to make selective, predictive and prescriptive decisions related to work, workers, and the workplace," the Leicester University academic said. "Violence and harassment unfortunately thrive when rights at work are often non-existent."
The paper is part of a research
package prepared for ACTRAV ahead of consideration of a proposed labour
standard on 'Ending violence and harassment towards women and men in the
world of work.' This will be discussed at the ILO's International
Labour Conference in June 2018. "The study by Professor Moore
articulates several decent work deficits that contribute to violence and
harassment at work. The good news is that trade unions are becoming
more and more active in addressing the issue and that the forthcoming
ILO standard has the potential to be the milestone for labour law and
collective agreements", said Anna Biondi, deputy director of ACTRAV.
Read more: ILO news release and report, The threat of physical and psychosocial violence and harassment in digitalized work, ILO ACTRAV, February 2018. Source: Risks 836
Researchers identify workers at highest risk of antidepressant use
According to a major European study, men working in human services occupations such as social work, healthcare, childcare and teaching are up to twice as likely as those in any other occupation to use antidepressants. They did not find any significant difference in antidepressant use between women working in human services and non-human services occupations.
The Finnish researchers findings suggest that the face-to-face interactions and associated emotional labour required in human services influence mental health outcomes through "gender-specific pathways".
The study examined data on 752,683 men and women in a population register, and any antidepressant prescriptions filled by these individuals in the 20 years to 2014. It found antidepressant use was significantly higher among men working in human services, particularly in social work, than their counterparts with the same occupational grade but in non-human services occupations.
These results weren't replicated in women, pointing to the burden of emotionally taxing occupations having gender-specific impacts on mental wellbeing, the researchers say. More women than men work in such emotionally demanding occupations, and it has been hypothesised that in occupations where one gender is in the minority have a higher risk of poor health.
Read more: André Buscariolli, et al, Finland, Human service work, gender and antidepressant use: a nationwide register-based 19-year follow-up of 752 683 women and men.[abstract] Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2018, online first doi: 10.1136/oemed-2017-104803. Source OHSAlert
Reminder: research into wellbeing and mental health of FIFO workers
Are you a current, or ex, FIFO (Fly-In-Fly-Out) worker?
Are there things you'd like to see changed in the industry or work practices to improve the wellbeing and mental health of FIFO workers like you?
The University of Western Australia is calling for participants in their study looking at mental health, wellbeing and work factors experienced by FIFOs.
You can complete the 30-minute survey and receive a personalised feedback report by clicking here.
OHS Regulator News
WorkSafe issues warning on falls
. Victoria's regulator has warned there will be consequences if employers do not 'manage the risk'* associated with working at heights on construction sites following two serious incidents in less than two weeks.
*Of course, the regulations require that employers eliminate the risk, and if this is not reasonably practicable, then minimise it so far reasonably practicable.
A 19-year-old carpenter was injured when he fell from scaffolding at a Dandenong building site on Friday, while a man in his 20s was seriously injured when he fell about six metres at a construction site in Fitzroy on January 31.
A total of 11 serious falls have been reported to WorkSafe since January 1, including:
- A 21-year-old man who suffered a neck fracture after he fell through a suspended floor while carrying out renovation work in the Geelong suburb of Bell Post Hill.
- A 61-year-old worker who fractured his hip after slipping off a 1.5 metre ladder at a multi-story development in Southbank.
- A worker in his 20s who was taken to hospital with a head laceration after falling almost 2.5 metres while installing battens on the roof of an office building in Colac.
WorkSafe Head of Hazardous Industries and Industry Practice, Michael Coffey, said falls were a leading cause of serious injury and death on construction sites."Employers have a responsibility to identify the risk of falls from any height and make sure the appropriate safety control measures are in place to control the risk," Mr Coffey said. "WorkSafe is asking all employers, principal contractors, contractors and workers who are undertaking work at height to review and if necessary revise their Safe Work Method Statements to ensure their fall prevention controls are adequate."
Read more: WorkSafe Media release
VWA investigating crane collapse
WorkSafe is making inquiries into a serious incident in which a precast concrete structure weighing 32 tonnes fell while being lifted by two cranes at a factory in Dandenong on Tuesday of last week (February 6).
The structure fell to the ground when a gantry crane being used in the lift failed. There were no injuries. In light of the serious nature of the incident, WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, has issued a warning to employers about the importance of crane safety.
"We are thankful there were no injuries, but it is a stark reminder to every employer that uses a crane to manage all the risks and ensure safety is a priority," Ms Williams said. "Because inquiries into this incident are ongoing, we cannot release further details at this stage." Ms Williams said that with so much construction work going on across Melbourne, many worksites were lifting heavy loads daily.
Read more; WorkSafe media release
Workplace Bullying Prevention Workshop
Bullying can significantly impact a workplace - and so WorkSafe Victoria is running a workshop in Preston to help employers gain practical information and resources on preventing workplace bullying. The sessions may also be interesting for HSRs, who could attend with their employers...
Preston Tuesday March 13, 9am - 12.30pm (light lunch included) Register here
Latest edition of Safety Soapbox
Safety Soapbox was posted on February 9. In this edition Barry Dunn, WorkSafe's Acting Construction Program Manager, welcomes back industry for 2018.
There are a number of other items in the edition including news that WorkSafe inspectors are visiting construction sites across Victoria in February to ensure the risks associated with formwork decks are being effectively controlled. Onsite inspectors will check formwork and associated systems of work. They will also speak with builders and formwork contractors about the various hazards, risks and the controls needed to effectively manage the risks. Check out the formwork focus sheet.[pdf]
Also attached to the electronic email is the list of reported incidents for the period from 8 December 2017 - 24 January 2018. Since the last edition of Safety Soapbox, there have been 176 incidents in the construction, utility, quarrying and mining industries serious enough to have been reported to WorkSafe. There was a large number of fractures, lacerations, electric shocks, and several falls where the workers were lucky to have survived. Access the February 9 edition of Safety Soapbox here - the list of reported incidents can be downloaded from the page.
QLD: Incident alert following explosion
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland this week issued an eSafe Incident Alert after a worker was burned in pump room explosion. On 11 January 2018 a worker was seriously injured in an explosion at a waste treatment plant at the Townsville golf club. Early investigations indicate this may have involved an explosive gas or substance in the pump room, but the ignition source has not been confirmed. The worker received extensive burns requiring hospital treatment. Investigations are continuing. The alert provides advice on how to prevent such incidents. In 2005 a worker was killed after an explosion in a kiln (see Prosecutions, below)
QLD: New Diving Code
A new code of practice is in effect for Queensland tourism operators. The Recreational Diving, Recreational Technical Diving and Snorkelling Code of Practice 2018 includes safety measures requiring:
- automatic external defibrillators on reef tourist vessels;
- systems in place to identify at-risk snorkelers prior to them entering the water;
- floatation devices to be used by at-risk snorkelers;
- at-risk snorkelers to swim in a buddy pair.
Safe Work Australia News
Safe Work Australia Fatality statistics
As of 2 February 2018, there had been 12 fatalities reported to Safe Work Australia. The two fatalities notified since the last edition of SafetyNet were in Agriculture, forestry and fishing, and in Construction. The workers killed have been in the following industries:
- 7 Transport, postal & warehousing
- 2 Agriculture, forestry & fishing
- 1 Construction
- 1 Information media & telecommunications
- 1 Wholesale trade
The numbers and industries may vary from one report to the next, as Safe Work receives more detailed information (to check for updates and more details on fatalities since 2003, go to the Safe Work Australia Work-related fatalities webpage).
Safe Work's most recent published monthly fatality report is for August 2017. During this month there were 9 reported work-related fatalities, compared to 15 in June and 8 in July. To download the latest report, go to the Notifiable Fatalities Monthly Report webpage.
Company convicted and fined $25,000 after worker fall from EWP
Bozweld Fabrications, is a company supplying stairways and hand railings, and was doing so at a factory in Dandenong South. In August 2016 an employee was welding hand railings onto a working platform at a height above three metres, working at this height. The platform did not have adequate fall protection and the employee did not have a travel restraining system or a fall arrest harness, and further, Bozweld had not prepared a safe work method statement before the job started. The worker lost his lost his balance and fell from the platform to the ground below, sustaining a head injury, broken bones, a collapsed lung and a fracture to the spine. Bozweld Fabrications pleaded guilty, was convicted in the Dandenong Magistrates Court, and fined $25,000 plus $3,500 costs.
Worker knocked unconscious: Roche Thiess Linfox Joint Venture fined, not convicted
In 2002 Yallourn Energy (now Energy Australia) awarded an alliance contract to the Roche Thiess Linfox Joint Venture (RTL) for all mining activities at the Yallourn Mine - making RTL was the duty holder in management and control at the workplace. In May 2016 an employee was working in a trench, cutting a small window into a redundant, partially exposed fire service pipe with an oxyacetylene torch as part of the overall removal and reinstallation of the piping. A chunk of dirt/clay, estimated to weigh 122kg by WorkSafe's expert witness, dislodged from a face of the trench, struck him at the back of the head, and knocked him unconscious. WorkSafe Inspectors observed the trench was approximately 54 metres long, four and a half metres wide, and at some points, up to three metres deep. There was no ground support, shoring, trench shields, or edge protection at the intersection of the western and northern walls of the trench other than some rudimentary battering on the northern face. RTLpleaded guilty and was without conviction fined $25,000 plus $3,505 in costs.
To check the past prosecutions and for any updates before next week, go to WorkSafe's Prosecution Result Summaries & Enforceable Undertakings webpage.
QLD: Company fined $200kafter worker killed in explosion
An environmental services company was last week fined $200,000 after pleading guilty in the Gladstone Magistrates Court to breaching Queensland's Work Health and Safety Act 2011 following the death of a worker on 27 October 2015, after an explosion in a gas kiln in Gladstone.
Magistrate Melanie Ho noted this was a serious breach of the Act with catastrophic consequences. However, she also took into consideration the company's early guilty plea, its co-operation during the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland investigation, a good safety record prior to the incident, its significant contributions to the Gladstone community, and the safety improvements made, which included stopping the 'drying out' process which on this occasion cost a young father his life. Consequently, though the company was issued with a sizeable fine, no conviction was recorded.
Read more: Queensland Media release